Madeline Buckley, Chicago Tribune
A 15-year-old #student at the Latin School of Chicago was “tormented on a regular basis” by students at the prestigious #school until he died by #suicide in January, a lawsuit filed Monday alleges.
The suit, filed by the boy’s #parents, Robert and Rosellene Bronstein, accuses administrators at the #school of “willful failure” to do anything about the #bullying, even though they received numerous complaints from the boy and his family. The complaint, filed in Cook County, names the #school, a number of employees and #parents of the alleged bullies.
Latin, a top-ranked #school that charges more than $40,000 per year in tuition, includes former first lady Nancy Reagan, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II and other well-known public figures as alums.
In a statement, the #school called the claims unfounded. It said it “deeply grieves” the death of one of its #students, but that it plans to “vigorously defend itself.”
“The allegations of wrongdoing by the #school officials are inaccurate and misplaced,” the statement read. “The school’s faculty and staff are compassionate people who put students’ interests first, as they did in this instance.”
The boy, identified as N.B. in the suit, transferred to Latin from Francis Parker School due to Latin’s in-person learning during the #COVID-19 #pandemic, according to the complaint.
A #student at the #school, whose parents are named in the suit, spread a false rumor that the boy was unvaccinated, the suit alleges. Though he was vaccinated, the boy was harassed about his perceived vaccination status, the suit says. The Bronsteins reached out to the student’s family about the alleged harassment, according to the suit.
The #bullying escalated from there, according to the lawsuit. He was told by a #teacher in front of a class that he was going “nowhere in life,” the suit alleges, and was #cyberbullied in a group text message thread by members of the junior varsity #basketball team and on the #socialmedia app #Snapchat. A #Snapchat message circulated around the #school said of the boy: “Ur a terrible person.”
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On Dec. 13, a #student sent a #Snapchat message to the boy encouraging him to kill himself, the suit alleges.
N.B. then met with a Latin administrator to report the #bullying, the suit says, but the administrator did not discipline any of the #students involved in the #cyberbullying.
Rosellene Bronstein had also been in communication with a #school #counselor about the #bullying, the suit says. At one point, she told the #counselor she believed her son might hurt himself and asked for a recommendation for a #psychiatrist.
Rosellene Bronstein notified #school employees about the #bullying numerous times, but the #school dismissed her concerns as “family issues,” the suit says. In November and October alone, she contacted Latin more than 30 times.
Despite having anti-#bullying policies and a stated “zero tolerance” policy for hate speech, #school administrators turned a “blind eye” to the “increasingly desperate” pleas for help from the Bronstein family, according to the complaint.
The boy also reported the #bullying to a #school dean about “months long abuse” but was disregarded, the complaint says.
He died Jan. 13.
The suit maintains that Latin violated a state law that requires all Illinois schools to investigate reports of #bullying and notify #parents of #students involved. It also accuses the #school of allowing a culture of #bullying, as documented in an #Instagram account that highlights alleged instances of #bullying, harassment and hate speech. The suit says N.B.’s sister was also #bullied at Latin.
After N.B.’s death, Head of School Randall Dunn and some board members “conspired to withhold all of the above information from law enforcement authorities, from the full Latin Board, from other constituents of Latin and from N.B.’s family,” the suit alleges.
The suit asks for an award of $100,000,000 on multiple counts of the suit. In a news release, the Bronsteins said they plan to share any money from the suit with anti-bullying organizations.
They said they demanded the school commit to an outside investigation, but Latin refused.
“My son was so alone,” Rosellene Bronstein said in the release. “Not only were the administrators who were supposed to protect him ignoring his cries for help, but they had the self-serving gall to try to protect their own reputations after his death rather than just having the decency of being honest with his grieving family. This is a legal and moral failure that has caused us indescribable pain and agony.”
For 24/7 help, call the free and confidential #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255.